The New York Yankees have gone without first baseman Anthony Rizzo for a few days this week. Rizzo left Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres after injuring his neck in a collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. Despite this, the team initially considered Rizzo good to go for their next series against the Seattle Mariners after he underwent postgame testing. Instead, Rizzo missed the entire series, including Wednesday’s 1-0 loss. Manager Aaron Boone didn’t use him in two potential pinch-hit situations despite him ostensibly being available off the bench. This raises questions about the Yankees’ honesty concerning Anthony Rizzo’s health. This instance, while particularly glaring, isn’t the first time the Yankees initially downplayed an injury only for it to be worse than assumed. At best, the team appears increasingly inept at judging the severity of injuries. At worst, they aren’t being completely honest about their players’ health.
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 28, 2023
Yankees Waffle On Anthony Rizzo’s Health
Riz Out Longer Than Anticipated
Rizzo departed the series finale against the Padres with a stiff neck after colliding with Tatis. There appeared to be little to no concern about Rizzo after the game, as testing reportedly cleared him for the Seattle series. On Monday afternoon, however, his name was absent from the lineup. It would have been safe to assume at the time that this was precautionary. After all, you want your players to be feeling 100% in order to start them. By Tuesday, though, it became clear something was up. Rizzo’s name was missing from the lineup again and he didn’t see action. While the Yankees won both of these games, it was troubling that Rizzo was held out both nights. His neck was supposedly fine after Sunday’s game, but clearly, it wasn’t.
But the saga wasn’t over yet. On Wednesday night, Rizzo was once again held out of the lineup, but Boone announced pregame that he’d be available to pinch-hit. The game entered the ninth inning scoreless, with both pitching staffs firing on all cylinders. With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Mariners opted to intentionally walk Aaron Judge with the bases empty. Next up was Willie Calhoun, who was 0-for-3 on the night. This would have been a perfect opportunity to send up Rizzo, a fellow lefty bat, in a key situation. Boone ultimately stuck with Calhoun, who flew out to end the inning.
Not an Emergency
Opportunity struck again in the 10th inning. The Yankees had runners on first and third with nobody out, but two of the next three hitters made outs without driving in a run. With the bases loaded and Kyle Higashioka due up, it would’ve been another perfect opportunity to use Rizzo. Instead, Boone sent up Franchy Cordero, who has seen very little major-league action since April. Cordero struck out to end the threat, and it didn’t take long in the bottom of the inning for Cal Raleigh to walk it off, singling in the automatic runner.
After the game, Boone was asked why he didn’t use Rizzo in either spot despite his “availability.” He said that Rizzo’s availability was an “emergency-only situation.” If having the bases loaded with two outs in extra innings with the game basically on the line doesn’t constitute an emergency situation, it’s hard to believe what does. Rizzo would normally be a much better option in those spots than either Calhoun or Cordero. But it seems the team strung both the media and the fans along this week. Anthony Rizzo was supposedly in fine health after Sunday’s game, but he clearly wasn’t if he missed the entire Seattle series without even being able to pinch-hit.
A Pattern Emerges
While Rizzo won’t be headed to the IL, it remains a concerning episode all around. The Yankees have done this before. Giancarlo Stanton missed extended time last year with a seemingly mild injury that was then described as increasingly severe in dribs and drabs. The same thing happened with Stanton this year–yet another soft tissue injury initially described as not serious. The team’s biggest offseason addition, Carlos Rodon, has yet to see the mound this season. He was sidelined in spring training with a strained forearm muscle and was kept out later on by a “chronic” back injury, which the Yankees ostensibly missed in his physical.
All these incidents cast significant doubt on the Yankees’ strength and conditioning process as well as their update process regarding injuries. This Anthony Rizzo saga is just the latest wrinkle. It’s getting harder by the day to trust the Yankees’ training staff, both in their ability to spot injuries and to judge their severity. It seems the lesson is that whatever this Yankees regime says on that subject, take it with a grain of salt until further notice.
Photo Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Managers Mentioned: Aaron Boone